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Libyan AIDS trial
adjourned due to defense witnesses' no-shows

Libyan AIDS trial
adjourned due to defense witnesses' no-shows

On Tuesday the judge overseeing the retrial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV abruptly adjourned the trial until August 8 when defense witnesses failed to appear in court, Reuters South Africa reports. The judge said the postponement was to give court officials more time to contact the defense witnesses, many of whom are health workers in Benghazi, Libya, where the HIV infections occurred.

The judge also refused a request by defense attorneys to release the health workers on bail to the Bulgarian embassy in Tripoli, declaring the embassy's guarantees that the health workers would remain in the country to be "insufficient."

The health care workers were originally convicted in 2004 of infecting 426 children with HIV at a hospital in Benghazi and were sentenced to death, but a Libyan judge overturned the death sentences and ordered a retrial in December 2005.

Health officials testified in the original trial that the HIV infections originating at the Benghazi hospital occurred before the health workers arrived there and were likely the result of poor sanitary conditions, particularly the reuse of medical equipment that hadn't been properly cleaned. The health workers, under arrest since 1999, say they were tortured while in prison to wring confessions out of them. (The Advocate)

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